"A Life of Duty: Lady Josephine Silverthorne"
The Scene: A Well-appointed drawing room in London.
A beautiful young woman with auburn hair sat quietly embroidering a pillow
cover. Her dress of dove grey displayed the imminent end of a period of
mourning. A frantic knocking was heard at the exterior door, and the woman
looked up with a faintly frightened expression. She stood and walked towards
the door, but stopped just short of it as hurried footsteps were heard in
the hall. There was a light tap on the door just before it was opened by
"Yes, Edwards, what is it?" the woman asked.
"A letter for you, my lady." Edwards answered as he passed the
papers to her.
A quick glance at the address showed Archie Kennedy's handwriting, and the
woman gave a small sigh before breaking the seal. Edwards slowly exited
the room, but remained in the hall. A quick glance revealed the note to
be tear-stained and in sections the ink had blurred.
"My dearest love,
I hardly know how to begin. I've told you about my best friend aboard ship,
Horatio. I have some bad news - nothing is wrong with me, but it concerns
Horatio. He was killed in a raid in France. I was on the mission, and completed
it. I didn't know until after we were safely back aboard.
Please, my love, come join me in Haslemere. I am staying at a tavern called
"The Lion's Heart" and I will arrange for a room for you.
Your loving fiancé,
For a moment the woman sat frozen before calling for her carriage and servants.
She hurried to her chamber to begin frantic packing.
"My lady," Edwards said from the doorway, "the carriage will
be ready in half an hour, but what is wrong? How can we help?"
"Edwards, you and Anna will accompany me." the woman looked down
again murmuring, "There will be a scandal because my mourning hasn't
finished for my parents, but Archie needs me."
"Lady Josephine..." Edwards started, aware she was trying to justify
to herself these frantic preparations.
"Mr. Kennedy needs me, Edwards, I must go to him." Josephine paused,
looked at Edwards and smiled slightly, "You all take such good care
of me, and now you must help me take care of your future master."
Edwards nodded and bowed before leaving to give Anna notice she was to attend
her mistress. After his exit, Lady Josephine opened a box on her dressing
table and removed a packet of letters - all from Archie. For a moment, she
held them to her heart before placing them in her bag. With the hurried
preparations competed, she went out to her carriage, followed closely by
Edwards and Anna. With a snap of the whip, they were off.
With Anna looking out the window to give her mistress some privacy, Lady
Josephine took out the packet of letters. One by one she opened, glanced
at, and arranged them in chronological order. With a deep sigh, she began
to re-read them carefully.
Today I greeted a new midshipman. His name is Horatio Hornblower. I think
he feels he's been thrust into Hell. Oh, my apologies for my language, my
He doesn't know anything about seamanship, and got seasick in the Mess.
Brings new meaning to that term, doesn't it, my love? Anyway, he's about
my age, and perhaps he'll become a friend.
I'll write more to you later. However, before I forget, thank you for the
book. I will find the time to read it soon.
Lady Josephine looked up from reading the note with a bemused smile crossing
her face. Her thoughts flitted back to that time. Their love was so new
then, and Archie hid his uncertainty with a flippancy of tone. She knew
he was hiding other things too, she could see it when they were together.
She remembered how she'd replied to this note. How much she'd hoped he and
Horatio would become fast friends, and how she'd struggled over selecting
a book to send him before finally deciding on Shakespeare's Henry
the Fifth - the last play they'd seen together before he had to report
to the Justinian .
After carefully re-folding that note, Josephine picked up the next one.
Before reading it, she remembered how concerned she'd been during that time,
and the uncertainty they had all experienced. Steeling herself, she began
"My dearest Josephine,
I have wonderful news! I'm being transferred to the frigate Indefatigable,
under command of Sir Edward Pellew, along with Horatio, Mr. Hether, and
However, my love, I have some bad news, too. Don't worry, I am fine. Do
you remember Midshipman Clayton? He was killed fighting a duel. Horatio
was supposed to fight, but Clayton took his place. I know you must be wondering
who the duel was against, but that isn't important."
Josephine looked up from the note, and realized Archie had never told her
who that duel had been with, and that she'd intended to ask Horatio when
at last they met. After a quick shake of her head, she looked back at the
"I'm not sure how much I'll be able to write now that we are
most likely going to be at war, but I will as often as I can.
You will wait for me, won't you, my love?
After hearing a small cry from her mistress, Anna looked up. Lady Josephine
was biting her lip to prevent any further sounds, and to try to quell its
"Are you alright, mum?" Anna asked.
"Yes, I'm fine." Lady Josephine quickly folded the note, but did
not put it away. She looked out the window and shifted uncomfortably.
"Mum, why don't we rest a bit? Surely a few moments wouldn't hurt."
Anna asked, with her brow furrowed with concern.
"Anna, we must get there. I will rest then." Lady Josephine said.
With a small sigh, she looked back down at the note. "Yes, my love,
I will, and have, waited for you." she murmured.
Anna looked at her, realized her mistress was thinking out loud, and quickly
looked back out the window. Lady Josephine quietly picked up the next note.
She'd been so happy to hear from him, had in fact received two notes at
once. She smiled as she saw the flourish with which the first had been written.
We've seen our first battle! We won the day, of course, there was never
any real question, but we did win. I was part of the boarding, please don't
worry about me, my love, I was successful too!
I wish you could have been here to see me. Are you proud of me?
I wish he would have written more, Lady Josephine thought, there is so much
he didn't say. She remembered how her heart had nearly stopped with terror
as she'd read the first line, and how proud she was of him and his success.
She'd called on his parents after receipt of that note, told them of his
triumph, and received a cool reception. She'd been furious at their lack
of reaction, but had hidden it from all but his brothers. They'd mocked
Archie's achievement, and her pride in him.
Picking up the next note, she remembered how his enthusiasm had dimmed,
and jealousy had appeared.
I don't have much time to write, but we've taken some prize ships, and so
letters are being taken back home.
Horatio has been given his first command. I'm happy for him, however, I
can't help but feel that I've been passed over. I've been in the service
longer than he has, and I haven't been given a command. Do you think less
of me now?
I am well and relatively happy. I think of you often. Please write to me
Lady Josephine remembered she'd written him immediately. A missive full
of love, support, and encouragement, but that the next thing she'd heard,
he was presumed dead. Those dark days as she waited impatiently for a note
from him, and instead received that cold note from his parents. With trembling
fingers, she held that note up to the light.
We regret to inform you of the news we received from the Admiralty. Our
son is most likely dead, and you are released from your engagement to him.
He was part of a boarding party, he disgraced himself, and was left in French
waters to die. Please call on us, and we will make other arrangements for
your alliance with our family.
Josephine's eyes filled with tears at the callousness of that note. She'd
been furious, and had petulantly refused to call on Lady Kennedy. She'd
sent a reply that before she could consider herself released from her engagement,
confirmation would need to be received from the Admiralty that Archie was
indeed dead. She'd locked herself into her room, and admitted no one but
her maid. She still felt herself filling with anger at the phrase "he
disgraced himself," and refused to believe he could. She was convinced
that something had happened that she hadn't ever been told, and she was
determined Archie would eventually tell her what really occurred that night.
In an attempt to stifle the flow of anger, she pulled out the next note.
It had been received years later. She'd collapsed when she'd seen the handwriting
on the address, and had been unable to open the note for days. She was convinced
someone was playing a macabre joke, or that this letter had just been found
so that was why it took so long to get to her. Regardless, she had decided
he was dead, and dead men do not write letters. Her mother finally convinced
her to read it, and she remembered how that black cloud of grief had lifted.
With a slight smile, she began to read.
"My dear Lady Josephine,
I do not know if I have the right to write to you, but I had to let you
know I am alive. I have been imprisoned, first in France and then in Spain.
I kept trying to escape, to get back to my duty, and to get back to you.
Are you my sister now? My parents want your lands and your title, I'm sure
they tried to marry you to one of my brothers. I hardly dare to ask.
I know you cared about me, did you ever think of me during the time I was
gone? Please do not feel an obligation to write back, I know it has been
too long, and I long since gave up hope you would wait for me. I hope you
did not feel obligated to, despite your vows to me so long ago.
I'm sure I have no right to tell you this, but please let me say it anyway.
You were the bright spot of hope. I held onto your image, and used it to
get myself through. I did nearly die, but Horatio saved me. He reminded
me that you existed, even though he has never met you nor have I ever told
him about you.
I'm sorry, my love, I never wanted to hurt you, and this letter probably
is. Can you forgive me? After our rescue, I found the small packet of your
letters. I kept all of them. Unless you want me to, I will not try to see
you, or write to you again.
I trust this note finds you well and happy. I will always keep you in my
Anna looked at her mistress sitting frozen with tears gliding down her cheeks.
Wordlessly, she reached out for Lady Josephine's hand.
"Mum, these letters are so painful for you. Please, let us stop and
rest if only for a few moments. I know we need to get to Mr. Kennedy, but
you will not be of any use to him exhausted."
"Thank you, Anna, but we must keep going. I am fine." Lady Josephine's
voice was filled with steady determination. Without another word, she looked
back down at the letter. She'd been stunned at the content, and the fact
that Archie was still alive. After a few days, she'd written back to him.
With the clarity which comes from shock, she remembered every word.
"My darling Archie,
I am well and happy now that I know you are safe. Though I'd despaired of
ever hearing from you again, I have refused to marry until the Admiralty
confirmed your death. Your family and mine have pressured me to accept one
of your brothers, but I have not. You have every right to re-establish your
claim on my affections for they never diminished.
I wish none of this had happened, but please tell me more. I cannot bear
the thought of you enduring all this torment alone. Please let me help.
You take so much on yourself, and I worry about you.
When will you be home, my love? I can hardly wait to see you.
She had not heard from him for months after sending him that letter. Later,
she heard he had voluntarily gone back to prison, so he'd been unable to
write back. He'd sent a quick note to his parents when they were in England,
but he'd not been able to see her. The next note she received was again
full of pain. The pain of his friend's grief, and his inability to penetrate
Why does it always seem that I write you when something bad has happened?
I don't know what to do, will you help me?
We just returned from an ill-fated and ill-conceived mission in France.
I did not distinguish myself in battle, but I did my best not to disgrace
myself either. Oh, my love, Horatio has been injured as a result of this
mission, not physically, but emotionally. He fell in love with a local girl,
and she was killed, in his arms. There was nothing I could do to prevent
Perhaps I should start at the beginning. The mission took place in a village
called Muzillac. We were attempting to place King Louis on the throne, but
the Royalist cause did not have the following that was expected. We were
under the command of the Marquis de Muzillac with a squadron from the Army
under the command of Major Edrington, the Earl of Edrington. Our part of
the mission was to blow up a bridge to prevent the Republican's artillery
from crossing the river. That was the only portion of the mission which
Horatio spent a great deal of time in the village and left me in command
at the bridge. When the Republican's attacked, Horatio was in the village.
When he realized he had to escape, he decided to take the girl with him.
She was apparently injured somewhere along the way, so they were slowed
down. We had already lit the fuse to blow up the bridge. We thought he might
be dead, and we couldn't wait any longer. A sniper shot her in the back.
She was killed, and Horatio froze. I couldn't leave him there to die, so
I ran across and brought him back.
Did I do the right thing, my love? He is so withdrawn now in his grief,
and I don't know how to help him. Should I have left him there? Would I
have wanted to live if the same thing had happened to you?
I can hardly wait 'til we next see each other, my love. Perhaps I can introduce
you to Horatio, and you will be able to find a way to get through to him.
That meeting had never taken place, and now Horatio is dead. Josephine remembered
being unable to write any words of comfort. She also knew that Archie had
distinguished himself in that battle, despite his claims to the contrary.
She had not received another message from Archie until the one calling her
to him. For a long time, she sat lost in her thoughts and memories. She
was startled out of her reverie by the carriage stopping. Edwards opened
the carriage door.
"We are here, my lady."